To a Friend, on the Loss of her Daughter by Carol P. Christ

One test of a thealogy is whether it can help us “make sense” of our lives—even the senseless parts of them.

Recently a friend told me that the teen-aged daughter of a friend of hers had committed suicide. “What would your thealogy say to that?” she asked me. Here is what I might say to a friend who lost her daughter:

I am so sorry for your loss. This never should have happened.

I remember times when I wanted to commit suicide. My pain was intense and my mind was stuck. All I could think was: this hurts too much to go on, and it will never change, so I might as well die. I am so sorry if your daughter felt that way, because I know it is a horrible way to feel. I am sorry she was not able to understand that it could have–and probably would have–changed. Don’t blame her. Sometimes pain is so overwhelming you really cannot see beyond it. Don’t blame yourself either. I am certain you did everything you could think of to help her. I know that if you could have prevented her, you would have. It really was not your fault. I don’t blame you, and no one else should either.

I also want to tell you that what happened to your daughter was not the will of God. Goddess, like you, felt you daughter’s suffering and reached out to try to help her. Like you, She did not have a magic wand. All She could offer was love and understanding. Right now Goddess is feeling your feelings of anger and sorrow that Her love and compassion and yours were not enough to comfort your daughter. Please do not torture yourself further by asking how this could have been the will of God. It was not. It really was not.

I know it may seem small comfort now, but Goddess is reaching out to you with understanding and love. She feels your feelings, and She wants you to know that you are not alone. There are other mothers like you who have survived great loss. She is there to help you find the strength to survive too. What happened really is an irreparable loss. Despite the pain you are feeling now and will always feel, there is still beauty in life. In time, you may see and feel the beauty of life again too. For now, pour your heart out to anyone who will listen, and when you can’t find anyone else, know that She is there. The path back to life will not be an easy path, but She will be with you all the way.

If anyone suggests to you that it was your fault, tell them to f*** off.

If anyone suggests to you that it was Goddess’s will, tell them to f*** off too!

If anyone suggests that it must have been “for the best,” tell them that it was not– because the best would have been for your daughter to find a way back to life.

I hope you will find your way back.

The will of Goddess is not a mystery. She wanted your daughter to live, and She wants you to find a way to live after losing your beloved daughter.

And to my friend I would add: This is how my thealogy makes sense of life as I know it– including the senseless parts of it.

Carol P. Christ is a founding mother in the study of women and religion, feminist theology, women’s spirituality, and the Goddess movement.  She teaches online courses in the Women’s Spirituality program at CIIS. Her books include She Who Changes and Rebirth of the Goddess and the widely used anthologies Womanspirit Rising and Weaving the Visions.  One of her great joys is leading Goddess Pilgrimages to Crete through Ariadne Institute

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10 replies

  1. God put order in the universe so that we may be happy and choose wisely. What if there were no order in the universe? We couldn’t be happy, and we would have no choice. What if, every time you started to sing a note, it came out differently than every other time before?

    Have you ever wondered why Adam and Eve weren’t given the experience of hell first, and then Paradise? God could have sent Adam and Eve directly to hell after they sinned. Instead He sent them out of Paradise and into the world as we know it now, with suffering and death, justice and order, and a promise of redemption through the seed of the woman(Gen 3:15).


  2. Carol, I have two responses. One, I attempted sucicide in my 20s. I know of this pain that you and this young girl experienced. I keep arguing with myself about responding with personal stories of my own life, not because I want to hide, but because it takes me off topic when I am trying to respond to another person`s words.But there it is again, a personal story. Your words offered as much comfort as could be possible. Senselessness is hard to bare.

    Second, I can see more clearly now how much more comfort could be offered a mother in this much pain by referring to the divine as Goddess.


  3. Lori-Ann, there is a fine line between making whatever is happening “your story” and responding with com-passion and sym-pathy–both words mean feeling the feelings of others. Those of us who have been there have the experience that allows us to feel with others who are suffering. We need not hide our “gift” under a bushel, as it were. We might as well use if “for the good,” don’t you think.


  4. Thanks Carol for applying your perspective to some of life’s most poignant moments. My boyfriend did commit suicide and I did blame myself for not understanding the depth of his suffering and for getting angry at him when he turned away days before he took his life. Knowing your process thealogy helped me feel supported and not abandoned by the great forces of life. I am grateful for your courageous and wise council,


  5. Thealogy is highly rated. At the funeral of all my friends, we just stood by each other. We danced, at the best fried chicken on earth, or we all were struck by an eerie silence. No lesbians I knew who died ever gave a damn about thea or theo-logy.


  6. Hi Nancy, We really can only do the best we can. We cannot know the outcome of our actions. So don’t blame yourself. The problem in deep depression is that the person really does not take in new information. And who knows, your anger might have been the one thing that could have gotten through, but in this case, it didn’t. Hope you are doing better with this great loss and suffering. Carol


  7. The suffering of women, the death of women…. the world goes on, largely in complete ignorance of what social structures really do to women. Some girls or women don’t make it, some think of suicide, some survive. We’ll never know exactly, and I’ve never found religions really very good with all of this stuff. What I do know, is that more women need to get really angry, feel the rage at male supremacy openly, stop the denial that is so much forced on women… both by women toeing the line of male supremacy and selling out sisterhood, and by women who in silence say nothing, and watch other women do the great battle against the most evil system the world has ever known.

    In many ways, the death of a young woman by suicide just leaves questions. As the years go by, the questions remain. There is the mystery of what women suffer with, but we should also talk about what helps us all fight back and survive. For me, just knowing the radical lesbian feminist sisterhood is there fighting night and day for an end to the nightmare that is male supremacy keeps me strong. I know the women who don’t collaborate, don’t make excuses and who stand up against that totalizing machine. Knowing that I take my uncompromised rage out in the world; I know who my enemies are, I name them. But there is a lot that was scariest for that first generation of feminists breaking threatening ground…. women could change the world by honoring all women who have the guts to stand up and be counted… to not forget them or marginalize them, to not undermine the greatest radicals out there past and present. That is suicide prevention for all women.


  8. i guess we don’t know the same lesbians, but of course lesbian mary daly believed that the feminist revolution needed to talk about the power of be-ing in a feminist context.


  9. PS and I for one believe that if we do not “rethink” religion, then when anyone dies, we will be left with the old saws concerning the “will of God” and “for the best” and believe me I have heard these from women too.


  10. I definitely think religion needs to be rethought, no doubt about that. Most lesbians I know are either atheists or agnostics. But nevertheless, you do have to know what these religions teach, and what their hold is on women. Call me a cynic, but I think the hold is largely hetero-tribal… the kids, the grandkids, the hetero family unit dragging itself to these dreadful womanhating institutions…because hey, our family has been Catholic since 1850, or all my relatives go to easter, or hey, the kids need to go to Sunday school. If you are not part of hetero-tribal coercive rituals, it simply seems kind of masochistic for women to keep sitting in those services, with the male processions and professions…. buy hey, grandparents are watching…. Ugh… and the more womanhating and woman excluding these cults are, the more women flock to them. It gets old.


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